The following comes from a December 22 Press Democrat article by Kevin McCallum:

When Marie Stiffend struck out for California in July, the 19-year-old former foster kid wanted to put some distance between herself and the small Oregon town where nothing much ever happened and everybody knew everybody else’s business.

She hit the road with her boyfriend and his friend. When they reached Santa Rosa, Stiffend soon found herself living on the street. Her boyfriend had crashed the car, destroying their only means of transportation, and, under circumstances she preferred not to discuss, landed himself in jail. When members of Catholic Charities’ Homeless Outreach Services Team came across Stiffend recently, she had been living on the street for three months and just wanted to go home.

Luckily for her, Santa Rosa recently boosted the team’s funding, allowing it to launch a new program that buys one-way bus and plane tickets for homeless people who want to get back home.

“Sometimes getting people back to their families and their support system is the best way to help them be successful,” said Jennielynn Holmes, director of housing and shelter for Catholic Charities, which operates the HOST program under contracts with the city and county.

Since the pilot program began in August, Catholic Charities has spent $1,630 to send six people away from Sonoma County, one by airplane and the rest by Greyhound bus. Stiffend, the most recent to depart, received a $216 bus ticket and $20 in spending money for what turned out to be an exhausting 48-hour trip home to La Pine, Ore., an hour south of Bend.

“I’m excited,” Stiffend said before departing. “It’s the first time in years I’m going to spend Christmas with my mom.”